Nigerian student emerges top 10 finalist for $100,000 Global Student Prize

A Nigerian student, Oluwadamilola Akintewe, has been named a top 10 finalist for the Global Student Prize 2021.

The competition is a new $100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student that has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and society.

Akintewe, a 22-year-old student at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo, Nigeria, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world.

The Varkey Foundation launched the Global Student Prize earlier this year, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better.

The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills program. Part-time students and students enrolled in online courses are also eligible for the prize. partnered with the Varkey Foundation to create the new Global Student Prize.

Dan Rosensweig, CEO and President of Chegg, said: “While many stakeholders are busy debating, these students are busy doing. Congratulations to all the finalists of the Global Student Prize. They truly are the changemakers our world needs.”

Lila Thomas, Head of, said: “Oluwadamilola and all our finalists represent the courageous and hardworking students all over the world that are fighting for their future. Despite the challenges of COVID, this generation of students have shown the kind of resilience and creativity that give us all hope as we confront the towering challenges ahead.

“The Global Student Prize has been launched to shine a light on their stories and listen to their voices. After all, it is their dreams and their talents that will light the path to a better tomorrow.”

Akintewe was inspired by her humble background to always be committed to improving lives and creating empowerment chances for girls and women in Nigeria.

She launched LetGirlsLead to provide mentorship and support for secondary school girls in Ondo state.

Working with youth organisations, they teach girls entrepreneurial, financial and digital skills so that they may become self-sufficient. She also set up a scholarship list to help them apply to universities and gain further qualifications.

She also launched Project Rebirth, which uses entrepreneurial action to deliver financial equality and inclusion for low-income and rural women in Ondo. They take business development and financial literacy classes and learn sustainable and eco-friendly fashion design.

The 140 women who have been impacted by the Project also get loans to buy sewing machines and launch their own businesses.

Using her growing confidence and connections, she messaged an Instagram model who she noticed supports social impact projects in the global south, pitched Project Rebirth to her and secured a $2,000 grant to deliver the training project to young women participating and directly benefiting.

In 2020, her team secured a $3,000 grant from Ford to expand the implementation to women in agriculture and food production while combating global scarcity and hunger.

As a former victim of gender-based violence, Oluwadamilola has herself dealt with mental health issues and trauma and is promoting a wider social change through gender advocacy.

Reacting to the alarming rate of sexual violence in Nigeria during the pandemic lockdown, she leveraged social media to raise awareness, founding the Forbidden Topics Facebook platform, now with over 1,100 followers, to amplify female voices against social injustices and break the silence.

Volunteering with many global organizations, Oluwadamilola also secured a $2,000 Wishwall Foundation grant to provide internally displaced girls in Northern Nigeria with free digital skills in coding with Python, JavaScript, graphics design and digital marketing to generate income generation and improve their lives.

Oluwadamilola has won a string of awards, praise and recognition for her work and achievements, including 30 under 30 Changemaker 2021 from Opportunity Desk Impact Challenge, the InauguralSamantha Singh Memorial Award 2021 from the ONE Campaign and the 2021 Peter Drucker Global Challenge for Leadership.

Sunny Varkey, the founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Congratulations to Oluwadamilola for reaching the final 10. Her story clearly highlights the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritizing education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”

The other top 10 finalists for the Global Student Prize 2021 are Amisa Rashid from Kenya, Elliott Lancaster from the UK, Jeremiah Thoronka from Sierra Leone, Kehkashan Basu from Canada, Lamya Butt from the UAE, Matine Khalighi from the US, Mirko Cazzato from Italy, Ana Julia Monteiro de Carvalho from Brazil and Seema Kumari from India.

Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Student Prize opened on Tuesday 2 February 2021 and closed on Sunday 16 May 2021. Students who applied for the Global Student Prize are assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.

The winner will be chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals.

If a student is nominated, the person nominating them is asked to write a brief description online explaining why. The nominated student is then sent an email letting them know they have been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize. Applicants are able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

The winner will be announced on November 10 via a virtual ceremony that will take place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

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